Animated Feature Spotlight: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET + Interview with directors Phil Johnston & Rich Moore

Wreck-It Ralph AND Zootopia are two of my favorite recent Disney animated features, so when I got the chance to interview the filmmakers Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, I jumped at the chance!

Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

Ralph Breaks the Internet welcomes back to the big screen video-game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz. This time, they leave Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and fast-paced world of the internet—which can be both incredibly exciting and overwhelming, depending on who you ask.

What is it about the characters of Ralph and Vanellope that called for an encore? “Ralph and Vanellope are imperfect characters,” says Academy Award-winning director Rich Moore (Zootopia), who directed the original film.

“But we love them because of their flaws. Their friendship is so genuine—the chemistry between them so engaging—that I think we were all anxious to know more about these characters.” – Rich Moore

Phil Johnston (co-writer Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia,” writer of Cedar Rapids) was one of the screenwriters on Wreck-It Ralph and is back as a writer and also a director. “Ralph and Vanellope had only known each other for a short time, yet they became best friends and we love them for that,” says Johnston. “But it didn’t feel like their story was over—there were more adventures to be had. And Vanellope, in particular, was starting to come into her own.”


Ruth Maramis’ review:

I had just seen the movie a couple of days prior and I enjoyed it immensely! Ralph and Vanellope (voiced by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, respectively) are just as adorable and entertaining as ever, and they introduced a new key character Shank (Gal Gadot) a tough and talented driver in an intense online racing game called Slaughter Race. Setting their new adventure inside the crazy world of the Internet is absolutely brilliant. It makes for a surreal, dynamic and funny moments, but also gave the filmmakers opportunity for social commentary (even a satire) of the darker side of online activities and internet addiction, obsession of being the next viral star, and addiction to ‘likes’ on social media.

I love the character Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson, the head algorithm of a trend-making website called BuzzzTube) which is obviously based on YouTube. The adventure really tested Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship, especially as Ralph’s insecurities gets out of control (literally). So yeah, I love that the movie doesn’t shy away from the bad side of the Internet, but still doing it in a non-preachy way. In the end, it’s still a fun family movie with a really good and relatable message about what friendship truly means. Visually it’s absolutely stunning, the colorful world of the Internet universe is mesmerizing, and the way the characters are ‘transported’ from one site to another is so fun and clever!

Oh and if you grew up watching Disney princess movies, you’ll definitely get a kick out of their scenes that turn the Mouse House’s legacy completely on its head! [see my last question about that very scene below] 😀

It was a ton of fun meeting both Phil Johnston and Rich Moore in person for a roundtable interview. They’re both really warm and cordial, and they’re so passionate about their work and the characters they’ve created.

So fun meeting Phil Johnston (left) and Rich Moore (right)

I’m including the Q&A from fellow interviewers Jared (from Man Versus Movie) and Chrysa (from Thrifty Jinxy). They’re clearly marked below as well as color-coded.


1. Jared: Aside from the established characters, there were new characters created specifically for this new universe Ralph and Vanellope are going into. Was there a concerted effort to go beyond the proven formula instead of falling into the trap of treading the same route of the original?

Taraji P. Henson voiced the character Yesss – the head algorithm of a trend-making website called BuzzzTube

2. Chrysa: I love the Internet as a physical place. How did you go about building that place?

3. Ruth: I’m curious about your background as voice actors – how did that experience affect you as writer and director of animated features? I know you worked together before in Zootopia, and I believe you also voiced some characters here in Ralph Breaks the Internet?

Rich: We do all the scratches

Phil: Yeah when we’re making the movie, we did it in storyboard form before things start getting animated so Rich and I do all the male voices and our co-writer Pamela Ribon and head of story Josie Trinidad did all the female voices. So when we showed things to our colleagues in the studio, it’d be just us.

Rich Moore elaborated further on his collaboration with Phil Johnston and why he should get directing credit in this sequel:

Inside the world of Buzzztube

5. Chrysa: I know you started writing this a while ago, after the first one (in 2014 was the first draft). Has there been a ton of changes and evolution to the story since then?

5B. Ruth: In relation to Chrysa’s question, I heard there was a version where Vanellope became a huge star on Buzztube?

6. Ruth: Ok here’s my actual question for you… You’re able to tackle something that dark and deep like racial prejudice, racism in Zootopia but packaging it in something entertaining. The same here with the world of the internet where it can be fun and lively but you also didn’t shy away from exposing the darker side of the internet like the dark web and all that. How did you work on those themes?

Rich elaborated about how that Comment Room scene inside Buzztube is so universally-understood.

The new characters of Slaughter Race

7. Jared: You’ve created these beloved characters in the previous film. What’s the thought process for you when you revisit them for the sequel. Are you nervous you’re going to be doing The Fox and the Hound 2 as opposed to Toy Story 2?

Phil: Rich always say there are more Jaws 2 than Godfather 2.

8. Chrysa: Besides the story being so good but visually it’s also really stunning. Seems that with every new Disney animation it goes up a step. Was there anything you wanted to do that wasn’t done before or was there anything you were inventing that was hard to actually get on to the screen?

9. Ruth: Given that I grew up watching Disney Princesses, I have to ask about that scene where the conventional themes are being turned in on their heads because now the princesses are the ones saving the big strong man. Did that storyline come up organically as you were developing this or did someone specifically say ‘we should comment on that?’

So congrats Phil and Rich! Ralph Breaks The Internet is definitely a great sequel that delivers an astute social commentary in a heartwarming, fun and delightful way!


Hope you enjoyed the interview! Have you seen RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET? If so, I’d love to hear what you think!

 

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6 thoughts on “Animated Feature Spotlight: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET + Interview with directors Phil Johnston & Rich Moore

    1. Hey Nostra! Hope you are doing well.

      Yeah it was such a great experience to chat with them. I think you’ll enjoy this one, bring your whole family!

  1. Great interview again Ruth, I have yet to see any of these animated movies. I might have to check them out once they’re on Netflix or Amazon. As you know I’m not into animated films as much as I used to so I have to be in certain mood to watch them. Lol.

    1. Hey Ted! Yeah I know you’re not into animated features but you might actually enjoy this one and get a kick out of their satire about the Internet. Their take on the online world is actually pretty spot on!

  2. Pingback: Musings on 2019 Golden Globes nominations – and the egregious snubs – FlixChatter Film Blog

  3. Pingback: Member Reviews: “Ralph Breaks the Internet” – Online Association of Female Film Critics

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